We have entered into the season of Lent. A time of preparation, not unlike Advent is before Christmas but with more of an inward focus of self improvement.
Advent is about making room for the Christ child to be born, to bring new life... It is a time for us to make room for the incarnation, God with us to be born in you at Christmas time.
Well in Lent, we have 40 days (which excludes Sundays) to look deep within ourselves in order to see how we are living our Christian faith.
To aid us in this journey we take this time to listen to the stories of Jesus life; and especially come to grips with those that led to his persecution and death.
Because you see, this is an opportunity to find ourselves in the story – to allow it to get into those places within us that feel like Good Friday, to open us up for God’s spirit to get in there and have a good look around so that we can be transformed on Easter morning and be filled with new life and a deep assurance of the living Christ being with us.
The Scripture passages we read for today, for the beginning of Lent, are as dependable as taxes. It seems that we always start with the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert... and it is a good place to start, because it tells us all about looking at those things that are inside us, about confronting the darker side of our personalities, and overcoming.
But this morning we also read from Paul’s letter to the Romans; which is a tiny but important passage that needs to be given careful consideration.
You see, Paul was afraid he would never make it to Rome, and he was writing to them to pass on all of his wisdom, his knowledge, and his faith. He wants them to understand just why it is that you should follow Jesus; so here we find him reworking three passages of the Hebrew text in order to help people understand Jesus. He also points out very clearly that we cannot earn God’s mercy and love. They are gifts freely given.
So let’s think about that for a moment - Lent is a time to prepare and look at how we can become even closer to God. We are thinking about how to strengthen our relationship with our Creator.
And Paul is reminding us that when we are tempted to believe that we have earned God’s blessing because of our own goodness or because of who we are; or when we are tempted to believe that we have not earned God’s love and grace because of what we have done or not done.... we are wrong. What we need to remember is that God does not discriminate – God is there for all – it is not something we can earn, or that comes to only some of us; it is grace.
That is a hard thing for us to accept. Jesus preached it, Paul wrote about it, literally millions have preached about it; and most of us struggle with the concept of grace.
We need some time to think about it. Lent is really nothing more than a time to be disciplined about your faith. It is an invitation, an offering for you in the midst of the business of our lives to look at who we are as people of faith but more importantly to learn more about God, grace, and God’s relationship to us.
As we listen to the words of scripture we find that they are full of stories of people like you and I who struggle with faith and our relationship with God but continue to be able to see what gets in the way of growing closer to God.
Let’s not kid ourselves everyone struggles to do this. It is not something that comes easily for us. It takes effort and a willingness to look at ourselves in ways we may not always feel comfortable doing.
While Jesus was in the desert he relied on his reading of scripture to respond to the temptations he was facing. He was constantly quoting the Hebrew text in response to each temptation.
Sometimes we forget the value of the stories of our faith. Many of us have tried to memorize portions of them, I’ve drawn charts to try and keep all the lineages clear in my head... But that is not where the wisdom lies. The wisdom lies in the stories themselves, in reading them in such a way that we can see their message and how that applies to our lives, our temptations, and our personal struggles and doubts; the dead ends of our lives. There is wisdom in this book we read.
SO here is a challenge that I want to leave with you for Lent. Read your bible, read the passages for the coming week. Read them and let them settle into you. It is not a text book; it is a book of rich text and poetry.
These forty days are not about preparing a space, it is not about preparing the world, it is about preparing us... getting ready from the inside out. Take the time and the space you need... .
10 months ago